Microsoft CEO: 'I Was Completely Wrong' About Gender Comment

Satya Nadella says he was thinking of his own 22-year climb up Microsoft's corporate ladder, though he says now that he encourages women to speak up.

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By Geoff Weiss

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has provided some insight behind the controversial comments he made at an event earlier this month that women should not focus on asking for a raise but rather have faith that their hard work will be recognized by the system.

"I was completely wrong in the answer I gave to the question that was asked around how should women promote themselves and make advances to their own careers," Nadella told CNBC in an interview this morning. "I basically took my own approach to how I've approached my career, and sprung it on half [of] humanity. And that was just insensitive."

Given that he arrived at Microsoft without any connections and worked his way to the top of the corporate ladder over the course of 22 years, Nadella says, "I'm the product of a system that worked." Which isn't to say, however, that the system always gets it right.

Related: Shark Tank Star Lori Greiner: I Never Think of Myself as a Female in Business

To that end, Nadella said it was the responsibility of leaders -- like he himself -- to break down biases and create better systems. Equal pay for equal work and equal opportunity for equal work are two principles Microsoft is closely examining today, he said. And in direct opposition to his initial comments, Nadella said he encourages women to speak up. "In the face of bias, the last thing I want anyone is to be passive."

The clarifications arrive after Nadella first tweeted about the "inarticulate" statement and then sent out an apologetic memo to employees. Following the gaffe, Microsoft's board director, Maria Klawe -- who'd actually conducted the interview with Nadella -- added that the company was re-examining its wage gap and overarching attitudes towards women.

But sloppy though his wording may have been, Nadella's comments turned a spotlight on important gender biases at play in the workplace today, ultimately shifting much of the onus onto companies -- rather than employees -- to continue working toward equality.

Related: Microsoft's CEO Apologized, But He Was Actually Half Right

Geoff Weiss

Former Staff Writer

Geoff Weiss is a former staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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